The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Stop, Reset, Do It Again

Parents are often very familiar with the feeling that they have been saying the same thing over and over again to their children. There is a perfectly good reason for this feeling: it is absolutely true! Conventional wisdom used to say that a child needs to hear something 7 to 10 times before they really understand what they have been told. Newer cognitive science, though, reveals that this number is generally true for adults but for children the number is closer to 40-50 times!

Teachers, likewise, find themselves constantly saying the same things over and over again. Sometimes I will try to change up the phrase but keep the general direction the same. Other times I will just keep using the same phrase until students start to fill in the blanks for me. (It is always delightful when this happens! I’m always thrilled to know that the students really are listening to me. It is equally delightful when a parent tells me that their child quoted me during evening conversations!)

However, there are times when it simply isn’t enough to repeat yourself. Sometimes you have to take more drastic measures. For me, I have found that one of the most successful strategies is to say, “Stop. Reset. Do it again.” I do this in a calm, clear voice. At the start of the year I will have to explain what this means:

  1. Stop – Whatever you are doing, whether you are on task or not, just stop everything.
  2. Reset – Start back at the beginning. This may mean putting everything away; it may mean sitting quietly for a minute. It may mean returning to seats and waiting for directions.
  3. Do it again – This simply means that the students should perform the task again, with the caveat that they do it again the right way.

This simple process gives the students opportunities to see themselves being successful. So many times, I hear them say that they can’t do it. But when I have them stop, reset, and do it again (the right way), they realise that they can do it and do it well. I really like how well this strategy works for helping the entire class. I wish I could claim it as my own but I can’t. I have adapted it from a strategy suggested by Doug Lemov in his book Teach Like a Champion. I have been using this since I started teaching and can attest that it really does work in nearly every single situation!


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